The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 49

ISSUE 49

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Introducing this year’s PATRÓN Perfectionists UK winner, Nathan Price

ByThe Cocktail Lovers

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While we can never guarantee exactly what will be on the cards when judging a PATRÓN Perfectionists national final, we always know our palates will be surprised and delighted; our minds well and truly blown by the inventive serves and the stories behind them. 

This year the anticipation was dialled up even more, purely because of the brief. How would the 10 finalists reimagine the pretty darned perfect PATRÓN Paloma recipe simply by dreaming up their own cordial? Oh, and linking the inspiration behind their creation to their favourite city? A tough one granted, but once again, the Perfectionists knocked the brief out of the park with their ingenuity and exceptional ways with flavour and storytelling. 

Lauren Mote, the Global Director of On-Trade Excellence and leader of the PATRÓN Perfectionists programme was certainly impressed: “The level of creativity, passion and thoughtfulness from the UK bartenders presenting their PATRÓN Paloma and PATRÓN Margarita rituals was outstanding. For two iconic, classic tequila drinks to receive such an advanced, future-thinking approach will change how we think, see and enjoy these drinks for years to come. We are witnessing cocktail history in the making from this group of talented bartenders.”

As Gian Luca Pavenello Canella, UK Brand Ambassador for PATRÓN Tequila explains: “For this year’s PATRÓN Perfectionists, our former global champion Harrison Kenney and I hosted a series of educational sessions across the UK’s major cities to support bartenders on their quest to reimagine the PATRÓN Paloma. It is not an exaggeration when I say this year’s standards have been the highest I’ve seen. 

“Every bartender that participated in the PATRÓN Perfectionists programme was outstanding and each received tailored education and support to feel read and prepared to present on the global stage. This type of training for the bartending community is paramount both behind and beyond the bar. It’s not just about the learnings one gains from the educational sessions, but also about joining a community of like-minded people, absorbing their energy and their passion.”

It was a close call but, in the end, it was Nathan Price from Burnt Milk Hotel in Liverpool who took the top spot. Not only was his riff on a PATRÓN Paloma absolutely delicious, but he excelled in his presentation and storytelling skills. Nathan will be joining the other 16 global finalists hailing from all over the world at Hacienda PATRÓN, Jalisco, Mexico, in May 2024.

“Nathan is a great example of someone who significantly engaged with the programme and his journey is particularly special to watch because of each milestone he achieved along the way,” Gian Luca continues. “He received a lot of feedback during the regional final, and applied it to not only improve his cocktail creations, but also his presentation performance. He makes me incredibly proud, and is a great role model to other bartenders, taking constructive feedback with maturity and positivity, using it as a booster to improve, always with such grace and humility.”

We caught up with Nathan to find out more.

Congratulations Nathan, you were absolutely amazing. How does it feel to be the PATRÓN Perfectionists 2024 UK winner?

To be honest, it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. I don’t think it will feel real until the dates and details of the global final event start coming through.

Who was the first person you called when you won?

Mike, my best pal and the person who runs Burnt Milk Hotel. I video-called him and he was already running round shouting and cheering as he already got the scoop that I’d won as he’d been keeping an eye on Instagram. He was (and still is) just utterly thrilled about it

Before we get on to your drink and presentation, tell us a bit about you. When did your passion for creating cocktails kick in?

I’ve worked in bars since 2016, working across various styles from corporate to food halls but the real passion, the real appreciation for the craft of drinks came when I started working at Burnt Milk Hotel.

Nathan Price

What is it about the industry that appeals to you?

The social aspect of it more than anything. I just love being around people. I love talking to people, love learning about people – that’s what bartending and hospitality in general is all about. The clue is in the name, isn’t it? I could never sit in an office and not really talk to anyone. I like to be active. Here at Burnt Milk we don’t have a bar, it’s set up like we’re all at a kitchen table – it forces everyone just to chat with each other which really encourages a lively, social element. I love that.

What about PATRÓN Perfectionists? What was it about the PATRÓN Perfectionists programme that spoke to you?

It’s world renowned and also always exciting. Initially, the brief felt pretty challenging as you could only change the cordial in order to create an original PATRÓN Paloma. In my mind, I thought every drink would taste the same. However, when we attended the Academia PATRÓN educational session and started delving into it and shooting ideas around, I was like, these ideas are all so different. I find it so interesting how people are creative in so many different ways. 

I like competitions that allow you to be creative. PATRÓN Perfectionists appealed to me because of the educational element and the way it makes you think outside the box.

L-R: Gian Luca Pavenello Canella, Nathan Price, last year’s PATRÓN Perfectionists UK winner Max Macauley

What is it about the agave category that is special for you? 

The history of it and how cultural it is to Mexico. Then there’s the passion… People who love mezcal and tequila are so passionate about it – I love that. I find it really infectious.

When did you get that ‘ah-ha!’ moment about your drink? 

I had a lot of iterations trying to get it to where I wanted it to be, believe me, it was quite a long process. The time I was most happy with was when I gave it to Mike to taste. He tried it, then looked at me and went, ‘wow, that’s great.’ That’s when I thought, cool. I’m on to it now because Mike is great. He’s got such a good palate, he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. If he’s not into something, he’ d be very upfront and say ‘no, it doesn’t work because of this, this and this’. But when he said he liked it, I knew that I was on to a winner.

Nathan’s reimagined Paloma

Describe your drink, the flavours and the story that inspired it? 

The idea came from my memories of being in Lisbon. The first time was when I was fresh out of university and ended up going on a solo trip to a festival. I met a great group of people who I’m still friends with – consequently, it’s got such a special place in my heart and I really wanted to focus on that. So I took inspiration from what I was drinking and eating during my time there, which was ginjinha – a Portuguese liqueur made from sour cherries, and eating an unholy amount of pastel de natas, those delicious custard tarts made with double cream.

I zoned in on morello cherries and double cream as the base for my cordial. I clarified grapefruit juice with the double cream and the morello cherry syrup, then added a grapefruit oleo, a couple of different acids and some salt just to balance it out. Then, obviously, PATRÓN Reposado Tequila compliments all these flavours so well because of the vanilla that comes through, which we also get in pastel de nata. There’s also that beautiful butterscotch element that I really wanted to play into. The deliciously sweet element works really nicely with the morello cherries which are much more sour, and pair really well with the light acidity from the grapefruit. Also, you get that creamy mouthfeel coming through. It’s a delicious drink, even if I do say so myself.

Tell us about the part Academia PATRÓN played in your drinks creation and presentation? 

Harrison Kenney (PATRÓN Perfectionists Global Winner 2022) and Gian Luca Pavanello Canella (UK Brand Ambassador, Tequila PATRÓN) came up to Burnt Milk here in Liverpool. Harrison did a brilliant masterclass on his experience winning the PATRÓN Perfectionists Global Final in 2022 and how he would go about building the Paloma for the entry challenge. It was really interesting and a great opportunity to learn.

PATRÓN Perfectionists UK Class of 2023/2024

How did it help you?

Harrison focused a lot on the storytelling. He told us that you’ve got to believe the story, you’ve got to be true to the story and you’ve got to make it about the story. Which was what I was planning to do anyway, but Harrison that cemented that was the right way to go about it. The other thing that he told us was that it’s got to be a Paloma. You can’t change perfection, but you can add to it without overcomplicating things.

We also did a lot of tasting which was a good way to figure out different flavour profiles of PATRÓN Reposado Tequila and get a different element of how to do a presentation.

Let’s talk about that first part, the importance of storytelling and how it impacts on hitting the brief. How you think it comes into play? 

In competitions the drink can get you so far. But the presentation is what will win it for you at the end of the day. If you haven’t got our presentation down, then you could have the most delicious drink in the room and it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily win. If you’ve got a clear idea of why you’ve created the drink in a particular way, and you’re doing it with passion, and you’re doing it with flair and you’re engaging with the room, I think that changes everything for you.

Congratulations all round for Nathan

Well, you absolutely nailed it. Tell us about the presentation side?

I wasn’t always great with public speaking but at Burnt Milk we do a lot of wine tastings which forced me into speaking to large groups. That’s what set me up for doing presentations for competitions. Now I love it. It’s pretty nerve-racking when you run up to it, but when you’re in the flow, there’s no feeling like it. Especially when you know you’re engaging with everyone and you can see people are engaged in your story. I love that feeling.

And any tips for people who aren’t so good at it? 

Practice in as many situations as you can, even if it’s just at home in front of a mirror. But the best way of doing it is with friends because generally, they’ll give you the most brutal feedback! Also, it’ll only be you and maybe one or two of them which is harder than talking to a bigger room where you have a lot of different people you can bounce off.

Whenever I prepare for full presentations I make sure that I know what I’m saying in advance, and then I’ll run though it by myself, often in front of the mirror. And then when I’m feeling confident enough I’ll start doing it in front of friends and they’ll tell you what’s not working. 

Top tips! Lastly, you’re off to the amazing Hacienda PATRÓN in 2024. What are you most looking forward to?

There are so many things that I’m looking forward to at the global final event, chief among them is, of course, going to Hacienda PATRÓN and experiencing everything that entails. I’m also really looking forward to having the opportunity to soak up the Mexican culture, food and drink and then meeting all the other finalists and sharing the stage and all these experiences with them. I can’t wait.

Keep up-to-date with all things PATRÓN Perfectionists at academiapatron.com

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The Cocktail Lovers

The Cocktail Lovers are Mr G and Ms S, a man and a woman who share a passion for cocktails. (We also happen to be married, so we’re cocktail lovers in more ways than one…)

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The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 49
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The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 49
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